Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 23, 2014

The Communal Hymn, Part I: More Formal…

As many of you might know, or could have guessed, I’m rather disappointed with the lack of participation that we’ve had over the last few years where the Megala Antinoeia is concerned. While the poem that Finnchuill did was (and still is!) lovely, and would have been a very strong contender for a prize even if there had been other entries, the “win by default” due to a lack of other entries is never a good situation to be in, and is most certainly not in the spirit of a good ol’ Greek agon, of which the Megala Antinoeia’s games in the modern period are supposed to be, just as they were in the world of late antiquity.

[I'll also just say that Finnchuill's poem and mine seem to be tapping into something that is afoot presently, as I think each of them is equally reflective of a different, and perhaps more mature, sensibility regarding this god and the many other divine beings associated with him, as well as his cultic history and modern practices, which has in this case manifested itself as a light-heartedness and a familiarity and a bit of humor, which is not based on irony or jadedness, nor on sentimentality. With devotional work, the latter might tend to be a favored default all too often, or something so piercingly poignant that it can then seem stilted or artificial to those who don't know the subject and the context. It's true, sometimes you want to feel pierced through the eyes into the heart by a gigantic barbed spear when you read a poem like this; but sometimes, too, it's more appropriate and enjoyable to notice the suggestively-shaped fruits in the bowl on the table, and to laugh at them instead. I don't think that metaphor applies 100% to either of our poems this year, but nonetheless, I hope you understand what I mean...!?!]

Sometimes, though, it may just be a matter of “too much to do” or “poor planning” that prevents someone from having the time to write something, and then the fear that if one throws something together in five minutes, it might not be worthy. Don’t discount the sincerity of efforts that are not hours-long in duration, though: often, the Muses are kindest to those who enjoy their presence in concentrated moments rather than leisurely hours. The most important thing with the Megala Antinoeia, and pretty much everything else involved in the life of a devotional polytheist, is to do it, and to do something. If I let the fact that we don’t yet have a temple, that I don’t yet have all of the original texts translated, that I haven’t yet read all of the books, or that I am not in any way perfectly suited to be doing some of the work that I am stop me from actually attempting any of the work, then I’d literally have nothing to show for all of the years I’ve put into this. If I can do this, there are people who are far more intelligent, creative, skilled, and spiritually-inclined than I am that can do at least something, surely…

So, perhaps it’s just a matter of time and its lack of availability. Very well, then…

It seems that one possible solution is to lighten the burden by sharing the effort, and in that regard, the present post (and the one which will follow it) is being made in order to elicit a communal response for devotional purposes. In each of these posts, I’d like to ask those who wish to participate to add to a set of communal hymns for Antinous. In this, I have to say I’m taking no small amount of inspiration from Sannion, who has been successful with such efforts with the Thiasos of the Starry Bull as well as at other times in the past few years.

There are two options for getting involved with this, and I suspect the present one will be the less-popular one; however, over the last few days I’ve also had experiences that suggest it is best to take into account that some people thrive equally well, if not better, in situations where they have a definite framework and rules and guidelines as they might in situations where things are more open-ended. So, to the former first…

The present blog post’s comments should be used to add to a communal hymn for Antinous that is more formal, and the form that we’ll be using is one of the most challenging poetic meters: terza rima. This involves lines that are usually around ten syllables in length (though eleven or twelve can work, too–we’ll go with that in this case), and which are in units of three lines. The first and the third lines have perfect end-rhymes. The end-word of the second line, however, then gives the end-rhyme of the next three-line unit, so that the result is the first three-line unit has only two rhyming lines, but then every other end-word has three lines that rhyme which alternate, etc.

So, as an example, you might have the following in the first six lines of a terza rima poem:

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ light,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ mark,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ night,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ dark,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ black,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ stark…

…and then the next set of lines would rhyme with “black,” etc. You get the idea, I think…This is the verse form that Dante used for The Divine Comedy, incidentally.

For our poem, I’d like to also set the following rules: you can write up to nine lines at a time, but also no less than three; and also, no end-rhymes of “orange” for the second line, folks! (Or “mountain,” because the only perfect rhyme for that is “fountain,” so unless it’s your opening lines, that won’t work!)

So, to connect a bit with our friend Dante, here’s an Antinous bust from Florence:

And, to make it fair, I’ll also start the thing out to get you going. BE CREATIVE! Don’t feel too limited by what is known of Antinous’ mythology and biography already–if Antinous lives among us and is still a divine reality (which, if you’re reading this, you probably agree on that, at very least!), then he’s a dynamic one that can take all sorts of forms and appearances and do all kinds of activities that we never would have expected. Give it a go, then: you know you want to!

We’ll come up with a title later…

Sing, O Muses from every spring fountain
of the beautiful Bithynian boy,
the joy of the nymphs on each sloped mountain,
and of the sharp hunting darts he’d deploy
against the panoply of four-legged beasts
and his courage which drowning can’t destroy.


  1. […] I explained in my last entry, this one is likewise going to be a communal hymn, but instead of being highly metered, tightly […]

  2. Am I really first? Here goes for two stanzas (and may I say that “beasts” is not the easiest word to rime with either!):

    –of how charming were symposia and feasts
    when fine Antinous was there to delight
    the lot, be they hunters, sophists or priests.

    Across the empire he cast beauty’s light,
    soft’ning a proud prince’s punctilious heart
    and proving tenderness at last to trump might.

  3. But life on earth, for him, was just the start
    as drowning took its toll, but paid the wage
    which made him play forever a god’s part.
    Divine warrior, king, or learned sage
    became his fellows, his comrades-in-arms,
    and inspired scribes to pen many a page…

  4. Belovèd of sculptors, his image charms
    cold marble into vivacity sublime.
    His multiform godhead need cause no alarms
    be he figured as the Nile-king risen from slime,
    the joyful wine-god or the keeper of bees:
    the same genius is limned in them each time.
    Though centuries passed, that genius next frees
    the shackled mind that had forgot Rome’s grace,
    teaching humanity heaven’s noble decrees.

    [Alluding to the popularity of Antinoüs’ image among Renaissance and Neo-Classical illuminati.]

  5. Ageless and timeless, his beloved face,
    which prompted shouts of joy as well as sighs,
    now looks with savor on this favored place
    and blesses those that praise him with great cries
    and prayers, and give him offerings of food
    and holy words of fame that never dies.

  6. [I was labouring far too long over the terza rima, only to look back and realize that this instalment is virtually redundant to Lupus' in scope. Sigh.]

    Let oil anoint his statues, clothed or nude;
    let fragrant incense burn, a gift sincere
    with choice libations gratefully renewed.
    Let garlands charm his shrines with pious cheer,
    and the air grow rich with off’rings ablaze.
    May that exalted immortal now hear
    all those who him with heartfelt hymns do praise.

    • Interesting! I will have to write two more lines for this section, since you only did seven (rather than nine), but that’s no problem…unless you’d like to in the meantime…?!? ;)

  7. I thought we might be driving towards a conclusion, actually; do we end on a rhyming couplet? I left off with seven lines so that the theoretically last line would still rhyme with something. But by all means, finish it up properly! This is obviously not the meter I’m used to working with. :-)

    • I usually do…I don’t know if it is standard for the form to do so, but in Dante, I’m pretty sure he does in each canto.

      I’ll have another look in a few days and figure out if it needs more…

      In the meantime, there’s still the other one that has had only one participant as well (besides me)…

      Thanks for joining in! ;)

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